I’m from Utica, originally. I graduated from Proctor High School back in 2003. So I’m a non-traditional student. I ended up moving to North Carolina for a couple of years, and then I started thinking about coming back to school. I wanted to come back home. I knew there was a college here. I decided to apply and see if I got in. Luckily I did. This was my first choice. I had actually visited the school while I was in high school, so I knew a little bit about in. I had a couple of friends who went here – a long time ago – and they had nothing but good things to say about it so it just seemed like a natural fit.
I had a couple of friends down in North Carolina, and I ended up going down there and starting a painting business. I also had a friend who was starting a church and needed some help so I went down there and helped him out. I was down there for a couple of years helping out. Once the church grew – and I really didn’t like the painting business; that was the main reason I wanted to go back to school. Some people like it. It just wasn’t for me. I just decided it was time for a change. That’s pretty much what drew me back.
I’ve loved it here. I’m a biology major. The faculty are amazing. Their doors are always open. You can come to them with any questions or problems you have. I’ve had nothing but a great experience. I was able to do some research two summers ago. I was able to do a paid research internship in Albany at the Wadsworth Center for the New York State Department of Health. One of my professors told me about the program. It’s a research experience for undergraduates (REU) program. They paid me a stipend, and I was able to go there and do some research. I worked on Huntington’s Disease.
I worked with a couple of researchers who were working with an intrabody they had created that would bind to the mutant Huntington protein and prevent it from aggregating. They saw promising results with that, and when I got there we were working on adding a PEST motif, a proteolytic signal to the intrabody so that when it attached to the mutant Huntington protein it would bring it to the protozoan for degradation and not just prevent it from aggregating. That was an amazing experience. That was 10 weeks over the summer. I ended up bringing that research back onto campus and ended up working on it much longer than the 10 weeks over the summer.
To be honest, I never thought that I would like research. I never saw myself as a scientist type, but I loved it, and it introduced me to a world of the scientific community that I never thought I’d be a part of. It was an amazing experience, and it’s actual, real research – it’s not like little science fair projects. It’s just an amazing opportunity, something that I never thought I would find at Utica College or anywhere.
Dr. Buchanan was my advisor since I was a freshman. Before I even started, I came and scheduled a meeting with him over the summer just because I was out of school and I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into and just to talk to somebody to get a better feel for what college would be like. We ended up having a three-hour conversation. Just because he was giving me advice and we were talking back and forth, and he’s just a great person to talk to. He’s always willing to talk to students, and he really cares. Most people won’t sit there for three hours and answer questions and what not, but he willingly has his door open all the time. So that was pretty cool. So that was another reason why I knew I was making the right decision coming here. Just his openness. And Dr. Pack is amazing insofar as letting you know what to expect in med school. He’s not one to beat around the bush. He gets right to the point and let’s you know that you have to work hard, and you have to do this, this, and this, and if you’re not willing to do this, you’re not going to make it – that’s the reality.
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